The Joro spider, native to Asia, became established in the Hoschton, GA area around 2014, likely arriving in a shipping container. It has spread across north GA (where I live) and now into parts of western NC and SC and eastern TN too. The spread seems to be gaining speed and people in the Atlanta area are reporting seeing them very frequently over the last few months. These spiders are big and scary-looking and make large webs, so they are easily noticed (I have a pair in my backyard). There are frequent postings about these spiders on neighborhood social media in my area. I read one posting where a guy said he owns several acres of wooded land and there are hundreds of these spiders and their webs on his property. While Joros are fascinating to look at, if you dislike accidentally walking into a web and getting a large, creepy spider on you, this is not such a good development, not to mention any possible negative effects to the ecosystem.
I used iNat observations to explore their spread. The attached screenshots show the Joro spider observations in this area over the last 6 years, filtered year-by-year, and you can see their numbers and territory spread (sorry the map scale varies a bit). Our area is not the most active in terms of iNat use, so these are but a miniscule fraction of reality of course, but you can still see the trend. These spiders are fast becoming quite numerous and pervasive. It will be interesting to see how quickly and how far they spread across the Southeast and then possibly to the rest of the US. If you look at their distribution in their native Asia, it covers a pretty large and geographically and climatologically diverse area, so it would seem much of North America might offer suitable habitat. Perhaps in 10-20 years these spiders will be common in the southern, eastern and central US. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!